Have you been to the new Foyles on Charing Cross Road yet? It re-opened about two weeks ago in the old St Martin’s building and boasts five floors of literary and academic joy, well to a book person like me anyway! Yesterday I spent a very pleasant few hours with a friend browsing the new shop and sampling the new cafe on the fifth floor.
We met in the cookery section (obviously!) and one thing I noticeed about the new batch of cookery books is that they are on the whole jacketless, the publishers using the book boards as part of the design of the book. Coming from a publishing/bookseller background it is always interesting to me the trends that book covers go through, I like to call it the Longitude effect. Do you remember when this was published, about 10 years ago? It was published as a small hardback, unusual at the time and it became a bestseller. For a few years after every quirky non-fiction book came out in that format! If it works…. Anyway, I stopped myself buying any cookery books as my shelves are already full (as you will see in the near future!).
Unfortunately, I didn’t make it out without buying a book, much to my husband’s distress (he can’t quite cope with my book obsession). I bought The Kills by Richard House (longlisted for last years Man Booker) and a Man Ray autobiography (something I have had my eye on for a while). They have been added to my book queue.
We had a coffee and a bun (chelsea in my case, scone in my friends case) in the cafe which has just opened. They had an interesting array of cakes: beetroot and seed cake, carrot, chocolate, brownies, meringues etc. They all looked homemade, in a good way! The seating is a mixture of benches and tables quite industrial in their feel partnered with lovely retro 60s chairs. All in all a good vibe.
We rounded off the afternoon with a couple of Aperol Spritzs at Ape & Bird, very nice indeed.
This time last week I was on my way to Exmouth Market for a masterclass at Morito, the younger sibling of Exmouth Market stalworth Moro. Moro has been there for 18 years and Morito is Sam and Sam Clark’s newest venture, open just three years and thriving in a very small space. The room is long and narrow with a bar and stools on the right and a handful of tables on the left, the kitchen/prep area is surprisingly small, especially when you learn that it can get through over 150 covers on a busy night!
But let me back up a bit. The reason I was there was because they have a new book out (you can read about it on their website) and the publisher had run a competition to win a masterclass with Sam and Sam Clark followed by dinner at Morito. As it was during the day they had trouble with people not being free to make it so I was drafted in (as a food blogger and lover of all things food!!) and I was happy to oblige.
When we arrived we were greeted with a Sherry Mojito (a wonderful summer tipple) and then Sam Clark (Mr) started talking us through what they do at Morito and some of the amazing dishes from the menu. Everything we ate was so tasty, made with very simple ingredients and all very simple to recreate at home. One of the highlights was the beetroot barani, this is a beetroot dip made with cooked beetroot, garlic and dill and teamed with a yummy flatbread it was delicious. It was all delicious. We were made very welcome by Sam Clark and his staff who made sure we were well looked after all afternoon. Once the masterclass was over we were presented with a copy of the book (Sam signed it for us too) and then invited to take our seats for dinner. After grazing on the lovely food all afternoon I didn’t think I would have any room, but it turned out that I did!
I tried to avoid the things we had eaten during the class so went for a spicy lamb and crispy aubergine but couldn’t resist having more of the fried cheese. This is a tetilla (image below, you can see why it is called tetilla. This one is available on the Brindisa website), a Spanish Galician cheese that is simply fried in wedges and served with walnuts, dreamy.
I met some lovely people and shared a wonderful afternoon and evening talking about and enjoying great food. The atmosphere in the restaurant was amazing too, the people that work there know the food and drinks so well, are enthusiastic about what they are doing and this shows in the food and the environment. I would recommend a visit, you won’t be disappointed, I know that I will be going again very soon!
That’s Frozen the Disney movie and not frozen things! So I have been discovering in the last few months. When you don’t have kids you can fall behind in these trends, or rather have them pass you by altogether. But my niece made me aware of its wonders on our recent visit to Italy, she told me the whole story and was waxing lyrical about it. Then my friend contacted me a few weeks ago to ask me to make her daughters 6th birthday cake and guess what she is obsessed with? You guessed it, Frozen. She was having a joint party with her friend and they wanted a cake each! I was commissioned to make two Frozen cakes, exactly the same.
As I have not seen the film my first port of call was the interwebulator to get some idea of what we were talking about and lo and behold there were hundreds nay thousands of pictures of Frozen themed birthday cakes. I say it again, I love the internet. After looking at some of these I decided that Olaf was my best bet in terms of a character to sit atop the cake, the quirky and slightly wonky snowman of the piece. I found a tutorial on how to make Olaf on Cake Central (a great website for all things cake decorating) which was easy to follow with lots of pictures to help me along. The final design was a 10 inch round chocolate sandwich cake (both girls like their chocolate!) with ice blue butter cream icing, a “snowfall” of white fondant, fondant snowflakes, mini fondant snowballs circling the bottom of the cake and Olaf atop. Once this was approved by my friend I began the preparation.
Normally, for cakes like these I would ice the cake drum in fondant but I thought that the silver of the drum would work well with the theme so that was one less thing to do! The most important item to get right were the Olaf figures so I started them on Wednesday, it’s good to let them dry completely to help with structure and stability. And stability proved to be the biggest problem with Olaf. If you have seen any pictures of him then you will have seen him standing on one leg with a big head that is tipped to one side.
You can see what I mean from this picture. The tutorial on Cake Central was very good and very detailed with hints and tips to help with the wonkiness! I bought some CMC powder from my local sugarcraft shop which makes fondant more sturdy and helps it to dry and harden quicker. You can use sugarpaste instead but this way I can just use fondant for everything and add the powder if I need to. It certainly made a difference to the drying time and was especially useful for the arms and hair! Safe to say it wasn’t all plain sailing, they both fell over a few times and when it came to attaching the arms it was a disaster. In the end I put a piece of dry spaghetti through the top part of the body and moulded the arms around that, they weren’t pretty but they did the trick. The tutorial said to use a wooden skewer to help him stay together. When I did my cake decorating course they said never to use anything that wasn’t edible on a cake, especially when it is for a child. She recommended using spaghetti, it probably means a less sturdy figure but I think it is worth it given what could happen if a child tried to eat an Olaf made with a wooden skewer. Although I made both Olaf’s at the same time they were very different, one was a bit more wonky than the other!!
I began baking early on Saturday morning, the cake baking is always the easiest thing for me, this is the bit I am confident with so it went without a hitch. By 10am I had all four layers baked and cooling. The next stage was to sandwich them with chocolate butter cream and put a thin layer all over the cake to give a good foundation for the final butter cream layer. Once this was done they went into the fridge for about 30 minutes to set the butter cream.
I was worried about getting the right ice blue colour for the butter cream, it was one of the things that kept me awake in the week before. I made a basic vanilla butter cream (butter, vanilla extract, icing sugar) and then added some Ice Blue Sugarflair food colouring, adding it bit by bit until I got the colour I wanted. It was very easy in the end, I got a lovely “frozen” blue.
Once both cakes were covered in there ice blue layer they went back in the fridge for another 30 minutes and I made preparations for the final touches. I wanted to have a fondant “snowfall” on top of the blue icing. To do this I rolled out white fondant to about 12 inches in diameter and then used a pizza cutter to cut around the edges to create a snowfall effect. I placed this on the cake and patted into place, it was a nice effect. The next stage was the mini snowballs around the end, this took the longest time of everything that day, it probably took an hour to do both cakes. But worth it in the end, I think.
Now I was into the final stages, just the finishing touches. Snowflakes of varying sizes stuck on at random and then Olaf put in position. The solution to keeping him upright on the cake was a toothpick inserted into his leg and then into the cake. It broke my edible rule but it was really the only way I could think that he would stay standing (I made sure both parents knew about the toothpick when they picked up the cakes). The final, final touch was to sprinkle both cakes with Waitrose sparkly sprinkling snow which gave a lovely shimmery finish.
The cakes were picked up yesterday morning and overnight one of the Olaf’s hair had fallen off (the cake box wasn’t deep enough) but when Ella (one of the birthday girls) saw it she said that he was bald and that she would have the bald Olaf as it reminded her of her Dad, bless! Catastrophe averted.
Messages after the party were all positive, happy children, happy parents. All worth it in the end. Now I just need to see this film!